I will choose a path that's free
I will choose freewill
... lyrics from the Canadian rock band Rush's song Freewill from their album Permanent Waves released in January of 1980...
On Saturday, June 3rd, 2006 America by Bike asked each of us riders to provide a quote for our profiles on Mike Munk's web page. I gave I will choose freewill. You'll find this quote under my high school yearbook picture as well.
Neil Peart is the lyricist and phenom percussionist in Rush.
My long-standing adulation for Rush predates my learning that Neil is a bicycle tourist. In the early 1990s, Neil toured West Africa by bicycle for a month and wrote the book The Masked Rider journalizing his experience.
(Neil's expedition was far more exotic than my journey, both in his exploration and in his prose.)
And so, this set of connections, for thousands of miles, had me thinking about I will choose freewill.
Was I choosing it? Did I choose it?
Every other bicycle touring trip I had taken was self guided; tailored to my proclivities.
I had many reservations setting out to spend 52 days with a squad of perfect strangers. From the get-go, I knew that choosing freewill would rarely be an option.
Our final 55 miles out of Manchester, NH to Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, NH had me mentally generating rosters of pros and cons of this accomplishment, all seen through the freewill lens.
The morning of, I had a gladdening breakfast at my sister Lauren's home. A touching half hour of dietary doting and attentiveness. Her husband Ken took me back to the hotel in his new Prius; and when we arrived, most of the bicyclists had already left.
Fortunately, Darrell hadn't departed for Rye yet, so I waited for him so that we might ride together for the last time (at least indefinitely).
Darrell and I agreed that for the last few days ABB gave us grade-A routes that showcased New Hampshire's more scenic country roads. For instance, a few miles out of Manchester into Auburn had us riding in a semicircle along Massabesic Lake; whose ebony water made the emerald foliage and marsh grass pop.
As one might expect in New Hampshire, there was plenty of climbing (note that my CicloSport computer is usually shy by ~500 in the number of feet ascended).
Some of the route was on more heavily traveled roads, such as Highway 121. Although, even those roads were highly desirable.
As we were spinning along, Darrell gave me details of the final dinner's speeches. Humor, insights, tears, compliments, etc. A group of guys, that Darrell had dubbed the Flomax team when he saw them urinating as a group once, put on a skit with them pretending to have been sponsored by Flomax. I'm sorry I missed that - pretty funny.
At about the 40-mile mark, in downtown Exeter, all of us converged at the Me & Ollie's bakery for goodies.
Our energy was definitely relaxed and feel-good overall. Yet, there was still a lingering sense that we were concerned that something might still go wrong for one of us.
We all had heightened risk aversion in the last few weeks, especially after having watched two riders depart the tour due to injuries. Any rider that appeared in the least bit tottery had to leave space; anyone could understand why.
Mike told several more horror stories along the lines of the shattered hip, 6-month hospital stay variety, particularly after the falls that happened during our rainy ride day. "Let's keep focused."
We heard the focus mantra again when we converged a second time at Rye High School.
It's here where the police would begin their escort of us all in a three-mile procession to the beach.
At this point we finally could let loose! We rolled along Washington Road, cameras in hand, sniffing for the scent of the Atlantic.
We all hooted and hollered when we saw the ocean. I said to Sue, "Oh man, I've missed the Atlantic so much."
If you have the bandwidth, here is a 60-second (100mb) video of us rolling to the beach - the finish line!
My dear friend Dave was at the finish line! It was so good to find him there -- he and his partner Brett were so supportive all along the trip and this was just the icing on the cake.
It was silly fun to traipse past the throngs of beachgoers out to the shore in our bike garb, bikes in hand.
I was pumped to find that the water was actually warm, very uncharacteristic for that early in the summer.
You can see that we're totally enthralled (many thanks to Dave for taking most of these ocean shots!).
(full sized: Download xc_rye_nh_jul2006_039.jpg)
We weren't there long at all, like climbers who summit Everest, make a few memories and motor...
Jamie arrived a few minutes later with flowers!
I packed my stuff in his car and then Darrell, Ronni, Mr. Jimmy, and I went in Ronni and Darrell's gangsta Lincoln to Bintliff's in Ogunquit for lunch.
I had a super-yummy chicken, cranberry, and spinach salad - plus their super-satisfying, chunky, not-so-corned beef hash.
We drove back to the hotel via Shore Road where I suggested that we stop at Nubble Light, followed by Browns for a vat of creatively-flavored ice cream.
I love this shot of us.
(full sized: Download xc_rye_nh_jul2006_051_dis.jpg )
Being with Jamie was such a relief, but we both found it odd that it both felt as though we had just seen each other the day before, and that it had been forever too.
Driving my Beetle home from my Mom's was a bit unsavory. Eastern Massachusetts drivers are victims of an overly dense urban and suburban region. I could instantly feel the tension, the aggression.
While tooling down Rte. 3 south, I flipped through about 50 pieces of neglected snail mail in the car. The crowded drive and my enormous action-item list was quite overwhelming.
A lot of my home's nonessential distractions seemed pointless after having lived pretty reasonably for two months out of two small bags.
Cambridge didn't seem any different to me. So more than ever, it appeared that life easily went on without me. It moves along whether I fret about it or not.
More reason to choose freewill.
I will get back to that -- in my next post.
Parting shot: An Exeter building top
|2006 Cross Country Challenge Totals|
|Rainy Miles Ridden:||95|
|Average Miles Ridden:||84|
|Average Feet Climbed:||2,271|
|Average Heart Rate||127|
|Hours In the Saddle:||232|